Ugandan Army ending its manhunt for warlord Joseph Kony

"Joseph Kony, currently can count on the support of less than a hundred armed combatants and is now weak and lacking in landmarks. That is why it no longer poses a significant threat to the security of Uganda and in particular for Northern Uganda."

The ruins of a house burn down by the LRA in the Central African Republic Photo: HCR/D.Mbaiorem
The ruins of a house burn down by the LRA in the Central African Republic Photo: HCR/D.Mbaiorem

In this way, last Sunday, Ugandan Army spokesperson Brigadier Richard Karemire, motivated the announcement of the next withdrawal of the two thousand troops of the Ugandan People's Defense Forces (UPDF) from the eastern part of the Central African Republic.

In this area, since 2009, Ugandan militants are engaged in operations against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and in the hunt for their infamous leader, the Christian fundamentalist fanatic, Joseph Kony.

The announcement of the withdrawal of UPDF, which constitute two-thirds of the African Union's Regional Intervention Force (AU) set up to end the atrocities of the LRA and stabilize the areas liberated from the control of the Ugandan movement, follows of three weeks that of AFRICOM, which at the end of March announced the withdrawal of US military deployed in the region.

After the arrest warrant for war crimes and crimes against humanity issued in 2005 by the International Criminal Court (ICC), Kony was forced to leave his homeland in northern Uganda to take refuge in neighbouring Congo and then South Sudan.

Since the end of 2012, the presence of the professed prophet has been reported in the remote areas of the north-eastern jungle of the Central African Republic and in the adjacent enclave of Kafia Kingi, located in South Sudan, but effectively under the control of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).

A protected hideout, seen as the old alliance between Kony and the Khartoum regime, which in response to Ugandan support to the separatist rebels of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SPLA), armed and supported for decades the LRA military campaign in North Uganda.

Throughout these years, the combined efforts of more than 150 US military advisers and UA special forces to destroy LRA have been hampered by the guerrilla tactics adopted by the group and its reluctance to retreat to unstable and uncontrolled areas.

The repeated movements of the warlord show that, while remaining isolated, he has at the same time remained well-informed about regional political dynamics and able to exploit crises and civil conflicts to evade his pursuers.

It is also believed that his sons Ali and Salim have taken a leading role within what remains of the armed movement. Ali Kony would be the potential successor to Joseph Kony, while Salim would be involved in operational planning and the repression of dissidents.

However, over time Kony's army strength has steadily declined, and now the war criminal, weakened and encircled, seems to have put the armed struggle in the background.

One of LRA's commanders, Dominic Ongwen, a former child soldier kidnapped by Ugandan rebels and became one of the most fierce leaders of the group, is currently under trial at the Hague Tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed between 2002 and 2005 in northern Uganda.

The other LRA leaders charged by the ICC, except Kony, are all dead. Vincent Otti, the second-in-command, was killed in October 2007 by order of Kony himself, for differences in peace negotiations. While Raska Lukwiya, the third highest-ranking in the group, was assassinated by Ugandan militants in August 2006.

Another leader, Okot Odhiambo, was eliminated in October 2013. His corpse, found on the basis of the GPS coordinates provided by the man who buried him, was exhaled on 20 March 20 2015 and transported to Entebbe, where was subjected to the DNA examination that confirmed its identity.

LRA has soured terror in several Central African countries and since 1986, the year of the onslaught against the Kampala government in attempting to impose its version of the ten commandments in northern Uganda, would have massacred more than one hundred thousand people and kidnapped over sixty thousand children to enlist them in its own ranks.

The most recent testimony about Joseph Kony's fate was over a year ago, when Ofwono Opondo Ogaldin, a former child soldier who has spent 27 years in the LRA, told Telegraph that Kony to subsidize what remains of his organization would be dedicated to Ivory traffic from the Garamba National Park, in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On 5 March 2012, Invisible Children launched the short documentary film Kony 2012, created to promote the humanitarian campaign called Stop Kony, which aimed at capturing the Ugandan war criminal. Meanwhile, the Californian NGO also risked closing, but then, albeit greatly shrunken, avoided dissolution.

Then, Kony disappeared from the front pages of the newspapers and this was because the LRA no longer threatened a time. His failure to catch, however, cannot be read as a success sealed by the withdrawal of the forces committed to sting it.

The fact that after twelve years Joseph Kony has not been assured of justice testifies to the failure of the mission's primary objective, which saw many men engaged on the battlefield.

@afrofocus

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